The International Criminal Court on Friday ordered the conditional release of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo after he was cleared last month on charges of crimes against humanity.
A spokesman for the ICC on Friday night said both men had left the detention centre in The Hague “as an interim measure”, without providing further details.
Judges agreed to release the 73-year-old ex-strongman and his aide Charles Blé Goudé on condition that they live in as-yet unspecified country pending an appeal by the prosecution.
Appeals judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the court would release them “to a state willing to accept them on its territory and willing to enforce the conditions set” by the court.
Ivory Coast is an ICC member state, but the court may be unwilling to send Gbagbo to his homeland, given that it has refused to surrender Gbagbo’s wife Simone despite an outstanding ICC warrant for her arrest.
Lawyers have previously cited the arrangement reached with former DR Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, who went to Belgium after he was cleared by the ICC last year.
The court ordered officials to make “appropriate interim arrangements” to find somewhere for Gbagbo to stay until a final arrangement is made with whichever country hosts him.
In a statement later Friday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that her team was still awaiting the judges’ decision in writing, detailing the reasons for the two men’s acquittal, before deciding whether to appeal.
Reporting from The Hague, FRANCE 24’s Stephanie Van den Berg said that the prosecutors have demanded that any ICC member state that accepts Gbagbo needs to be close to the Netherlands, so that he can swiftly be returned to the ICC court if need be.
“That narrows the number of member states down quite a bit; there was some talk of Belgium – you can imagine possibly also France, Germany. Those are all ICC member states close to the Netherlands, and then you kind of run out of ICC member states close to the Netherlands.”
“What’s clear from these conditions is that he cannot return to the Ivory Coast, as his family has said he wanted to. So if he has any political ambition to stand in Ivory Coast’s next election – which there were some rumours about – he is certainly not going to be able to do that in the near future.”
The first former head of state to stand trial in The Hague, Gbagbo was found not guilty on January 15 over a wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010.
More than 3,000 people died on both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his internationally backed-rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is Ivory Coast’s current president. – France 24/AFP.